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Roger Ebert: Nil by Mouth


Pat
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Very thought provoking. Hate his tastes in food, though.
Why? Those foods take him back in time to a place where anything and everything was possible and the whole world was an unknown adventure and everything was a new taste. I'm sure if you think about it for a few minutes, you'll come up with a list of foods you ate when you were 6 or 7 years old that would taste really great if you could get them right now (and if you think about them, you'll be able to taste them once again).
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I wonder how that article would have read written by someone for whom food isn't simply an afterthought.

Not being able to eat is a pervasive fear of mine.

I don't know that it's so much an afterthought as something he hadn't given careful consideration to until recently. Some of the places he talks about sound pretty interesting. He is an old school journalist, after all--a writer. The places he reminiscences about sound like writers' hangouts.
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I don't know that it's so much an afterthought as something he hadn't given careful consideration to until recently. Some of the places he talks about sound pretty interesting. He is an old school journalist, after all--a writer. The places he reminiscences about sound like writers' hangouts.

I want to express my sympathy to Roger Ebert for what he is experiencing. I applaud his courage in the face of an incredibly challenging life's experience.

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Why? Those foods take him back in time to a place where anything and everything was possible and the whole world was an unknown adventure and everything was a new taste. I'm sure if you think about it for a few minutes, you'll come up with a list of foods you ate when you were 6 or 7 years old that would taste really great if you could get them right now (and if you think about them, you'll be able to taste them once again).

Point taken. Also, somehow on my first read my mind morphed "Joe's Stone Crab" into "Joe's Crab Shack" which is quite a bit different. My brain plays tricks on me sometimes.

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In my past life I worked as a Nutrition Support Dietitian at a large pediatric hospital. Most of my patients did not eat or drink by mouth. If I learned one "moral of the story" while I worked there it was that Oprah is wrong- food is love. To eat with people or to share food with others is one of the most fundamental human behaviors. Food does more than just nourish your body, it nurtures your soul. For many parents the loss of the ability to feed their children was the most devastating aspect of a diagnosis. For others being able to feed their child was the only act of normal parenting they had left and they held onto it fiercely, often against the urging of their child's medical team. Some of my older patients who could communicate would beg to just be allowed to put food in their mouth to taste it and promise to spit it out. In my training, which was the only time I worked with adults, those who lost the ability to eat by mouth would yearn for comfort foods especially those they associated with their childhood, specific people or happy memories. It comes as no surprise to me that Roger Ebert mourns the loss of eating basic foods from his past and not trendy or gourmet things. I have heard manystories of patients who simply refused treatment once they learned they would no longer be able to eat or drink. The loss of the ability to sense aromas in food or dulling of the tastebuds with age can be equally devastating for people.

On a lighter note, there are many stories about patients who would put beer, wine or hard alcohol down their g-tube because getting a buzz was still a priority in their life. I have also heard of people who would puree really strongly flavored foods because they enjoyed the aroma of the food from the back of their throat. One of my favorite little patients once elegantly described it as "I prefer chocolate burps to strawberry".

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Lovely, indeed. I suspect the "Hercules at the Crossroads"-distinction set up between the pleasures of dining and eating is a bit rhetorical and the issue is not quite as black and white as it might appear to a reader judging his taste in food. I can't find my source online, but FTR, Roger Ebert knew Anna Thomas, author of (The Vegetarian Epicure cookbooks & film industry professional) and dined at Charlie Trotter's places well before the chef flirted w raw food and pulled foie gras from his menus.

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I wonder how that article would have read written by someone for whom food isn't simply an afterthought.

I didn't come away from the essay with the sense that food was an afterthought for him, just that the companionship of dining together is a keener loss. Think of it this way - imagine that you had to cook and eat every meal alone for the rest of your life. Would food mean just as much to you then?

One of the possible side effects of thyroid surgery is damage to the vocal cords, and a possible side effect of radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer is damage to the salivary glands and reduction in one's sense of taste. The potential inability to talk to my family & friends, or sing to my kids, was a far greater concern.

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